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The kids star and Kessel seals deal as Maple Leafs beat Lightning 4-3 in OT

NHL.com @NHL

TORONTO - Phil Kessel took a brilliant pass from Tyler Bozak and scored at 3:33 of overtime as the Toronto Maple Leafs put a dent in the Tampa Bay Lightning's playoff hopes with a 4-3 victory Thursday night.

With the teams trading chances back in forth during an entertaining extra session, Bozak intercepted a pass and broke in on a 2-on-1, deked around Lightning forward Vincent Lecavalier and slipped the puck to an open Kessel, who easily beat a sprawling Mike Smith.

Bozak also scored in regulation, while fellow rookie Viktor Stahlberg added a pair as the Maple Leafs (22-33-12) won for the third time in four games on the backs of their youth. Luca Caputi, another freshman, added two assists.

Steven Stamkos, extending his points streak to 18 games with his 42nd goal of the season, Kurtis Foster and Steve Downie replied for the Lightning (27-27-12), who lost for the seventh time in eight games.

Tampa Bay - fighting for the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference with Montreal, Boston, the Rangers and Atlanta - struggled to contain the Leafs' kids all night and eventually paid for it.

Bozak had put the Leafs ahead 3-2 just 3:37 into the third when he picked up a loose puck to Smith's right and fired it over the prone goalie.

But for the second time in the game, Toronto's lead was short-lived.

Downie fired home a rebound past Jean-Sebastien Giguere just 1:13 later, setting up the exciting finish.

A dull opening frame in which Stamkos' late power-play goal was the only highlight gave way to a far more entertaining second that ended with the teams locked up 2-2.

Stahlberg tied things up 1-1 at 9:29 when he took a Caputi chip pass out of the Leafs end, broke in on a 2-on-1 and ripped a shot off Smith's glove and in.

The Maple Leafs took the lead about seven minutes later on a weak shot, as Stahlberg won a battle for the puck behind the goal, skated out from the corner and swept the puck in past Smith from a bad angle.

Undeterred by a second weak goal, the Lightning attacked relentlessly on the next shift and moments after Leafs defenceman Dion Phaneuf cleared the puck from the goal-line, Foster wired a loose puck in the high slot over a screened Giguere's shoulder to tie it again.

The first real animosity in the game came moments later when Phaneuf and Downie traded a flurry of punches in a melee that brought in all their teammates. Phaneuf and Downie both served minors for roughing.

Stamkos opened the scoring at 18:17 of the first, taking a pass from Foster in the left faceoff dot and sending a laser beam over Giguere's shoulder.

Notes: D Garnet Exelby and F Frederik Sjostrom were scratched for the Maple Leafs, while F Todd Fedoruk, tough guy Zenon Konopka and D Matt Smaby sat out for the Lightning. ... Leafs D Luke Schenn twice drilled Lightning F Alex Tanguay.

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